Fresh tones and patterns
Dent May “90210” (Carpark)
You need not know the Highland Park-based singer’s bio before popping on his new song, because he lays out some basics in the lyrics.
He’s open about his finances, for example, telling a would-be lover via a barroom piano melody, strummed guitar and voice in the opening verse that he doesn’t have a lot of money, but so what? “I’m going to a party in second-hand clothes: Address 90210.”
The second verse adds to May’s backstory: “I ain’t got much to cruise to valet / But these four wheels do me OK / This Mississippi boy sure ain’t used to this view / I come from 39202.”
Yes, like Britney Spears, William Faulkner and Tig Notaro before him, May was born in the Magnolia State. And like another recent L.A. transplant, Mac DeMarco, the young Southern troubadour writes singalong songs filled with wit and earnestness. Think Boston renegade Jonathan Richman or songwriter-actor Loudon Wainwright III. Woven through: a dynamic arrangement that suggests his Pasadena neighbor Van Dyke Parks’ work both solo and with the Beach Boys.
The song’s chorus is wonderfully evocative, despite its brevity: “Palm trees and Champagne / By swimming pool light / 90210 treat me good tonight,” he sings, and you can almost see the shimmering blue water.
May has been working on his so-called L.A. album since he relocated. Called “Across the Multiverse,” it was recorded in his home studio — but it’s hard to tell — and comes out Aug. 18.
Baths Theme from “Dream Daddy” (Game Grumps)
The artist born Will Wiesenfeld’s new track under the Baths moniker arrives in the form of a theme song for a new video game called “Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator.”
The premise is pretty simple: “A Dad Dating Simulator is a game where you play as a Dad and your goal is to meet and romance other hot Dads,” reads the game’s sales pitch. Think the classic of the genre, the Sims — except you’re a divorced dad and after moving into a new neighborhood, your goal is breaking up homes one gentlemanly tryst at a time.
Baths’ theme captures the game’s playful spirit. An earworm if there ever was one, it’s driven by a sleek synth-pop rhythm and a vocal mantra — “dreeeeaaaaam daddy” — sung with the stickiness of a fabric softener jingle. Wiesenfeld harmonizes with himself, singing, “Who’s going to be your dream?” and “Who’s it going to be?” in the background.
It’s ridiculously catchy. As one commenter wrote on the SoundCloud page: “I can’t get this out of my head please send help.”
Nine Inch Nails “Add Violence” EP (Nine Inch Nails)
Nearly three decades after Trent Reznor upended the alt-rock world with the aggro-synth energy of “Head Like a Hole,” the producer, label head, Apple Music executive and Nine Inch Nails founder continues to craft fresh tones and patterns through circuitry.
The five new songs that make up this extended play give it the heft of a full album. Like synth-rock pioneer New Order’s early EP, “19811982,” it contains as many engaging moments as lesser artists’ full-lengths.
The meditative four minutes of “This Isn’t the Place” opens with a patient piano run that gradually gets overwhelmed by humming electronic noise and manipulated Reznor groans; when he finally adds lyrics, they suggest a farewell. “Not Anymore” mixes sheets of distorted bass and guitar with hard rock drums. Despite being the length of a pop song, it weighs a ton.
In fact, the only track on “Add Violence” that breaks the five-minute mark is the last one. Called “The Background World,” it runs for nearly 12 mid-tempo minutes.
“You left me here / What am I supposed to do? / I never dared to look inside / Just like you told me to,” Reznor sings, and it’s hard to know if he’s talking about exploring his psyche or a unzipping a body bag. As the song progresses, he gradually increases the tension. Then he pulls back and starts an oblong, rhythmically challenged loop that at first listen sounds like a corrupted file. But slight variations suggest otherwise, and as the song surpasses the 10minute mark, the beats have been supplanted with gritty noise.
SOUTHERN BOY Dent May writes singalong songs full of wit and earnestness.
NINE INCH NAILS, with Atticus Ross, left, and Trent Reznor, engage on EP.